Even though passenger jets have been around for over 50 years, they never ceases to amaze me.
It wasn’t too long ago (1885) that the Transcontinental Railroad was built. Before that, there were no road and very few towns. It took months to cross the prairies, let alone the continent.
Today, we sit in a chair in the sky, traveling 8 miles a minute. The time it takes us to read a few chapters of a book and eat a salty snack, we’ve crossed the Great Lakes, the seemingly endless prairie provinces, and we’re already on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.
When I fly, I can stare out the window for hours, looking at the landscape slowly passing below. I like to bring an Altas to find out exactly where I am.
Sure, I can easily see the same thing (and in more detail) using Google Earth.
But there’s something inherently satisfying in holding a map in your hands, and tracking your progress in real-time.
This was on my last flight, leaving from Toronto to British Columbia.
Here’s the Tobermory and Cove Island, on the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron.
Next, is Manitoulin Island off the North Shore of Lake Huron.
A bit of trivia here. Manitoulin is the world’s largest island within a freshwater lake. In the center of the photo is lake Manitou, which is the world’s largest lake within a freshwater island.
This is somewhere over Northern Ontario, past Lake Superior. (I’m guessing around Quetico Park). Northern Ontario has tens of thousands of lakes like this. The area here seems to be a relatively pristine, without any logging roads or clear-cuts (which is pretty rare these days).
Ontario is one big province. Two hours into the flight, and we’re still over it, near Kenora.
Kenora is in the center, with Sand lake is clearly visible under the wing-tip, in the upper left.
Next, is just north of the City of Winnipeg, with Lake Winnipeg in the distance.
Lake Winnipeg is huge, about 400 kilometers long. This is just the southern tip. But from an altitude of 40,000 feet, it’s amazing how far you can see. In the distance are Hecla and Black Islands, about 120 km away.
The east (right) of Lake Winnipeg appears dark blue, due to the boreal forest. To the west (left), the forest disappears and the farmland starts. From this altitude, you can see the abrupt transition between forest and prairie.
Another interesting thing to note is the Red River Floodway rejoining the Red River, at the bottom-center of the photo.
The Red River is especially prone to serious flooding because it drains to the north.
During spring thaw, the downstream parts can still be iced up, unable to accommodate the melted icewater from the south. Everything backs up and the river overflows its banks for miles.
The 43-kilometer Floodway was built in 1968, to divert the Red River around Winnipeg in case of such flooding. It’s quite interesting to see this man-made ditch that goes on for miles.
It’s been used 20 times so far and has prevented billions of dollars of flood damage.
Next is Riding Mountain National Park. This park is located on an escarpment and is a virtual island of forest surrounded by a sea of prairie.
The park is roughly 100 km by 30 km. It’s amazing that you can see it in its entirety out the window, with Clear Lake in the center.
The park boundaries are quite abrupt, where the farmland meets the forest. The outline actually does look like the green spot on the map
The next hour of the flight isn’t as exciting. Small-town Saskatchewan and Alberta…in JANUARY.
(Does it get any better than this?)
Wouldn’t you LOVE to live there?
It was so flat and boring, I lost track of where we were.
And finally….after anxiously waiting all those hours, I was waiting for the icing on the cake, the ultimate reward…
..to see the Rocky Mountains in all their glory!
And of course, they were all clouded in.
I swear, this happens EVERY time I fly out west. Hours and hours of clear skies…and the clouds just HAPPEN to appear at the most scenic part of the flight.
Oh well….at least I got a few teasing glimpses now and then…which was all right.
And finally,there’s landing in Kelowna, where suddenly the snow’s all gone, and it feels like springtime 2 months ahead of schedule…
(Is it any wonder that everyone wants to move out to BC?)